Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong turned himself in to the prosecution's office Thursday morning for questioning by the independent counsel team over allegations he offered financial support to President Park Geun-hye's confidant Choi Soon-sil in return for business favors.
He arrived at 9:30 a.m. as a bribery suspect, at the special prosecution team's office in southern Seoul. Lee's summons comes on the back of those involving two key Samsung executives, Monday, who are also allegedly involved in the influence-peddling scandal.
"I'm sorry for the people for causing concerns with this incident (scandal)," he told a throng of reporters.
He entered the prosecution's office without answering further.
It is alleged that in return for Samsung funding Choi and her cronies, Park ordered the National Pension Service (NPS), which held shares in two Samsung units ― Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries ― to vote for their merger in 2015. The merger was crucial for Lee to solidify his influence in the firm's management as heir-apparent.
The counsel team suspects Park and Lee had several closed meetings to discuss the deal.
Samsung provided 3.5 billion won to Widec Sports, Choi's company in Germany, under the pretext of supporting promising dressage competitors. But Choi's daughter Chung Yoo-ra was the only person to benefit from the support. The group also provided over 1.6 billion won to the Winter Sports Elite Center, set up by Choi's niece Jang Si-ho. It also donated 20.4 billion won to the Mir and K-Sports foundations controlled by Choi.
The investigators believe the financial support to Choi also benefited the President, so Lee and Park can face charges of giving and receiving bribes, respectively.
The team also secured a second tablet PC allegedly belonging to Choi, different from one secured by the prosecution earlier. It made public the tablet, which Jang submitted to the team, during a media briefing.
The tablet contained emails related to the merger and Samsung's money provision, as well as some drafts of Park's speeches. The team said it is certain the computer belonged to Choi, who earlier claimed she did not know how to use tablet PCs.